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Psychogenic Disease in Infancy

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Psychogenic Disease in Infancy

Published 1952
Topics need keyword

Illustrates a series of psychogenic diseases and attempts to relate them to the infants' relationships with their mothers.

Run time 00:19:13
Production Company Spitz, Rene A
Audio/Visual sound, b&w


Reviewer: morganjones65 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 6, 2010
Subject: Context
Robert Karen provides this confluence of factors for historical context: In the early 20th century, orphaned children or those who had been given up by their parents were still typically raised in institutions in their early years rather than placed in foster care or an adoptive family. Influential proponents of eugenics OPPOSED early adoption on the grounds that it was better to let the child grow a bit and see if it was defective in any way.

In 1928, Arnold Gesell, a prominent developmental psychologist at Yale, was convinced that children will be what they will be regardless of how they are raised. Meanwhile, behaviorist John B. Watson, also at Yale, advised parents never to hug or kiss their children.

On the grounds of sterility, hospital policy typically forbade parental visits when the child was ill, and it was not uncommon for infants and young children to be in a hospital for over a year without ever seeing their parents. It was also labor saving to minimize contact between attendants and infants. Few questioned if there was anything wrong with the process until the 1930s. It took decades for this research to penetrate the institutions, and Rene Spitz’s films were critical to this effort.

Hospital administrators and staff still commonly forbade parental visits when this film was made. They were too disruptive. Calm (actually, depressed) children were easier to tend. One nurse would later admit that she went along with the No Parents policy because she was ashamed to let them see the poor care. All this was real and pervasive. There was no shortage of subjects for study.
Reviewer: ns87 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 23, 2009
Subject: Controversial and Intriguing
First, I just want to address the following comment from a previous reviewer: "I will grant that depriving a child of a caring parent will dramatically impact his or her emotional development. I am wondering how they came across three children who were neglected for months at a time, though; even without a mother, there are fathers, or adoptive parents/caretakers, who can provide the social interactions an infant needs."

How did they come across these children? During the 1950s, orphanages and hospitals for children were inadequate. That's where Spitz "found" these children. The medical community rejected what he found -- that the social interaction these infants were getting (at maximum adequate feeding and hygiene, though often those standards were not met) was harmful.

Due to Spitz, other researchers, and advocates for child welfare, we abolished orphanages. This reviewer talks about adoptive parents/caregivers but they need to realize what year this film is from. You cannot look at this film with the knowledge we have of child development today.

This film played a huge role in the development of Bowlby's Attachment Theory. If you are interested, I highly recommend Robert Karen's "Becoming Attached."
Reviewer: SannaGosing - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 9, 2008
Subject: Groundbreaking science!
I am enourmously greatful to be able to directly see this film.

This is one of most disturbing things I have ever seen. Although difficult to understand, (I would appreciate some professional comments, for my own knowledge, and for others considering other reviews), it gives clues to the development of post war psychology.

These children should be crawling around, investigating, playing, crying. But they aren't, they are staying in their cot, as they were put there by the carers. Note that this was not some cruel experiment back in the 1940s, it was the standard caring of orphaned infants. Put them in cribs, well separated from each other for hygienic reasons, feed them but otherwise do not care. The researcher just went in the and filmed the reality.

I cried when I saw a nurse checking up on one of them. Instead of holding the child she just poked it with a pen.

About twenty years after this film was made, Harry Harlow did more or less the same thing by isolating Rhesus monkeys for a few months. Today he is called cruel because it is obvious, (and it was probably obvious to him as well), that the animals would suffer enormous irreparable damage. Interestingly he was the who showed it is cruel. However, 60 years ago it was not considered necessary to give infants anything else than food and hygene, and this is what this film captures.
Reviewer: sleepless2008 - - July 23, 2008
Subject: Importance of Rene Spitz
Spitz's other film: "Grief: a peril in infancy" is mentioned in the book _Love at Goon Park_ by Deborah Blum. It is important to consider Spitz in the context of the psychology of the time. Spitz was in the "attachment" camp, as opposed to many other psychologists who felt that it was acceptable for sick children to be separated from parents and given just one hour of visit per week. This film was made to show the harm in the total isolation of infants and children for "hygiene" reasons.

"The film was the cause of major change, especially in childcare sections of institutes, homes and hospitals, due to the fact that people gained knowledge about the impact of deprivation on child development."

At 4:00 on the film, a baby is shown trying to nurse. The text mentions the baby then went into a coma "due to maternal aggression". Very possibly, this baby was newly circumcised, a procedure done at that time (and sometimes today) with no anesthesia. At that time babies were not thought to feel pain, recognize faces or even see in color. Today circumcision is known to interfere with the breastfeeding relationship and cause significant pain.
Reviewer: Mental Cleanser - favorite - May 14, 2008
Subject: These filmmakers are idiots
As a breastfeeding mother, I guarantee that the footage they show isn't representative of the statements they made.

"The overt active hostility of this mother is extreme." To me, that implies she's roughly handling the child, even to the point of slapping or hitting. But she's just trying to get the baby to latch on. That's what you try in the first few days of life -- shove a nipple in their face until they figure out how to get it in their mouths.

"The mother withdraws passively, does not accept the infant; unable to nurse or handle her child." Yet she was cuddling the baby, then trying to get it to wake up and latch on. The only significant difference from the first mother-child pair is that these two aren't lying down.

Suckling problems aren't psychological or "failure to bond". No wonder babies died if the doctors kept berating patients they were being too hostile or too passive.

The rest of the film is composed of statements that are equal in hyperbole, and given the total falsehood of the first section, I've lost any reason to believe the rest. Eczema caused by "hostility disguised as over-solicitiousness"? Illustrating "fecal play" as children teething on a crib?

I will grant that depriving a child of a caring parent will dramatically impact his or her emotional development. I am wondering how they came across three children who were neglected for months at a time, though; even without a mother, there are fathers, or adoptive parents/caretakers, who can provide the social interactions an infant needs.

The film is horribly dull and not of interest to anyone outside the fields of psychiatry or child development. Beyond that, whether the "science" behind this film had any merit is completely unintelligible, given its inability to visually illustrate hypotheses. Terrible!!!
Reviewer: carol123 - - February 16, 2008
Subject: attachment
I thought this video was nothing more than barbaric, to observe a child suffereing from love and affection is totally unforgivable.
there are far to many children suffereing from neglection and abuse, and thats in the 21st century.
I just cannot comprehend how men and women of science could do such a thing for research lets hope they have regretted their actions, because I know i couldn't
Reviewer: 62Baby - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 8, 2008
Subject: Thought provoking for those in the Medical field
Wow, this was really disturbing to watch. Not the mother-child relationship they were trying to show, but how the children were used "in the name of science" to see what would happen. I really find it hard to believe that eczema is caused by an overly aggressive mother or whatever. Were these children used as "test rats"? Were these children willingly left by their mothers to "further science"? Were the children WELL compensated, presuming they lived, for their part in this film? Although, there are many, many mothers (and fathers for that matter) who do not deserve children, I don't believe this is purely a mother-child relationship thing. Like that mother who shakes her child because he won't drink when she says. Does not shaking a child this young cause brain damage? Maybe that's why the child goes into a coma and dies not the fact that he won't drink when told to.
All this said and done, I really found it interesting to see how the makers of this film put it together. Very interesting to see what "could" happen. And quite a piece to get a medical argument going. Say between a child psychiatrist, a child neurologist, and a pediatrician. In fact, I think I will show this to a child neurologist friend of mine to get his reaction. Although, you are right, not for everyone.
Very interesting those of you in the medical profession, watch this!
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - March 20, 2004
Subject: More screaming brats then you can handle!
Very odd short which may be upsetting for some, but for me, provided a glimpse into early, although it DOES say 1960, psychiatry. Various children are shown with "Psychiatric problems". Some are shown with their mothers, and you can see that the mothers are somewhat to blame with their "take my nipple NOW" approach to breastfeeding. Then we see kids which psychiatrists say might die because there's no Mom in the household, which is somewhat baseless, as the legions of single dads and male couples can tell you. So all in all, I thought this was an interesting film to watch, but again, not for everyone.
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